St. Louis Arches and Revolution Circus training in Dorado, Puerto Rico (Photo courtesy of Circus Harmony)

St. Louis Arches and Revolution Circus training in Dorado, Puerto Rico (Photo courtesy of Circus Harmony)

MONTERREY--Puerto Rico Flips For Circus Harmony of St. Louis

Debbie Monterrey
July 09, 2018 - 6:20 pm
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by Debbie Monterrey, [email protected]

The St. Louis Arches are used to being on the move. They perform all over the St. Louis area and beyond. They've traveled to Israel and Washington, D. C. 

Now the elite acrobatic troupe from Circus Harmony is in Puerto Rico, working with Revolution Circus of the National Circus School of Puerto Rico. They're putting together a show with their Puerto Rican counterparts that they'll take to six communities still suffering from the ravages of Hurricane Maria. The combined troupes are calling themselves Revolution for Harmony Circus.

Revolution Circus for Harmony poster courtesy of Circus Harmony
Revolution Circus for Harmony poster courtesy of Circus Harmony

Puerto Rico is the latest extension of Circus Harmony's "Peace Through Pyramids" initiative first spearheaded by Jessica Hentoff in a collaboration with the Galilee Circus, a youth Jewish/Arab circus program in Israel. After the upheaval in Ferguson, Hentoff expanded there. Now, seeing a need to help this island nation and this Puerto Rican circus school get back on its feet, the ever-energetic Hentoff set her sights on our United States commonwealth that is still suffering mightily. As she often says, building pyramids with people is a great way to build bridges between communities.

"Many issues can devastate a community," Hentoff explains. "One of the greatest needs in the face of these overwhelming challenges is hope – young people especially need to feel that there is a way to get to a better and higher place."

L to R: Marilyn Cortes, Jessica Hentoff, Glorimar Sierra (Photo by Elliana Hentoff-Killian)
L to R: Marilyn Cortes, Jessica Hentoff, Glorimar Sierra (Photo by Elliana Hentoff-Killian)

The National Circus School of Puerto Rico suffered severe damage from Hurricane Maria and lost much of its equipment. Hentoff first connected with the school when she made a donation to them. They suggested Circus Harmony visit. Fortunately, they still had their tent.

After accepting the invitation to visit, Glorimar Sierra worried that they might not be able to host the St. Louis performers because of the extensive damage on the island that has been slow to recover. But they are managing. 

"We're doing great, excellent," says Glorimar. "My kids are teaching salsa to [the Arches]. They're learning Spanish and my kids are learning English."

Hentoff agrees about the chemistry between the two organizations, the hospitality and that they have someone to cook for them. She says at first some of the St. Louis kids were hesitant, but, "the food is so delicious, you have to eat it."

As far as the damage, Hentoff says it's everywhere.

"Streetlights that are literally broken in half and hanging down into the street so you're worried it'll hit the van! There are no traffic signals so you have to slow down and be really careful at intersections."

She says although they are in a nice area not far from San Juan, "Buildings that were flooded, really nice buildings, totally uninhabitable. Just as if there'd been a war. A weather war. They're just abandoned."

One Puerto Rican-St. Louisan who's been raising money to help his island homeland is Cardinals' catcher Yadier Molina, who also happens to support youth baseball on the island. This week, Revolution for Harmony Circus is also putting on some community clinics, and Molina's baseball team is expected to participate.

Adding to the St. Louis flavor, STL TV host and Cortex Innovation Community Commications Manager, Gilberto Pinela, has been visiting the circus. A Puerto Rican native, Pinela has been following the group's progress (and occasionally bringing treats). 

"There are many St. Louis ties to Puerto Rico," says Hentoff. "And now there's one more with Circus Harmony!"

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